by Luke Wayne
No, the Bible doesn't say that money is the root of all evil. But is does warn that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil:
1 Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
1 Timothy 3:3 also says that leaders in the church must be "free from the love of money," and 2 Timothy 3:2 lists "lovers of money" as one of the sins that will typify the last days. Paul clearly found this sin to be of great importance and warned Timothy consistently about it for his sake and for the sake of the churches. Elsewhere, Luke 16:14 describes the Pharisees scoffing at Jesus because they were "lovers of money." The wise King Solomon also warned of the foolishness of loving money:
Ecclesiastes 5:10, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity."
Just what does it mean to love money? It's easy to tell ourselves that we don't love money, but how do we evaluate this biblically? The Book of Hebrews gives us an important warning that helps us understand what this sin is.
Hebrews 13:5, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,'"
The opposite of loving money is being contented with what you have and trusting God. Are you satisfied with your possessions? Or are you always telling yourself that you would be content if you had just that one other thing? Do you rest assured in the promises of God to be with you and to take care of you, or does your security lie in how much you have in the bank? How do you spend your time and energy? Are you contentedly working for your wages to feed your family and give what you can to others, or are you always trying to attain a higher or more comfortable economic status? These kinds of questions help us reveal whether or not we love money. As the Proverb says:
Proverbs 23:4-5, "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens."
Paul also warned Timothy regarding the love of money:
1 Timothy 6:7-9, "For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."
And as the Psalmist wrote:
Psalm 52:7-8, "Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and was strong in his desires. But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever."
Trusting in money as our refuge and being strong in desires, these are marks of the love of money. They are also the opposite of trusting in the loving kindness of God. Faith in God and love of money are in direct conflict with one another, which is what makes this sin so serious. As Jesus says:
Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
John similarly wrote:
1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
John goes on to write in the next chapter:
1 John 3:17, "But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
The one who loves wealth (or "the world's goods") cannot also love his brother. When his brother is in need, he will have to choose: do I give up my material things for the sake of my brother, or do I forsake my brother because I am unwilling to part with material things? Do I feel too insecure without my wealth to give it up for my brother? If so, I love money. Am I so unhappy and discontent without certain material things that I am unwilling to give them up even if my brother is in need? If so, I love money. And if I love money in this way, the biblical indictment is that I need urgently to repent, because the love of God does not abide in me. It's impossible to trust both God and money, and it's impossible to love both neighbor and money. The love of money is in direct conflict with faith, godly love, and with the two greatest commandments of God on which all other commandments hang: to love God and love neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40).
None of this means that being rich is necessarily evil. Some people work hard at their job simply out of integrity and receive promotions and raises that elevate them to a position of riches. They didn't chase riches, but God saw fit to give them riches. Other people own a business, run it well, and it becomes so successful that they become very wealthy. They weren't working for riches, they were just responsible, and God blessed it. Other people might inherit wealth or come to Christ already possessing great wealth. There are numerous ways a faithful, humble Christian whose heart is for the Lord and not for riches may still end up being rich. This is not a sin. But they do have to be careful not to be enticed by their riches into the love of money. Paul tells Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:17-19, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."
You can be rich and not love money, but it is difficult. You must be ever on guard. You must humble yourself before God. You must trust in God so fully that you are always willing to give up your riches for the sake of others. You must be generous and use the abundance God has given you to help the poor and advance the kingdom.
Likewise, being poor does not mean you do not love money. Many poor people are chasing riches and are given over to bitterness and jealousy against those who have money. They love that money and want it for themselves. Many poor people are trusting in scratch-off tickets or get rich quick schemes because their hope is in wealth and not God. Many people bury themselves in debt, not to meet their basic needs, but rather to live a material lifestyle they cannot afford because they love material wealth. All of this comes from the same source. This, too, is the love of money. We all, whatever our current station, must be diligently on guard against the love of money. We must strive for faith and contentment. Let us pray with the wisdom of King Agur:
Proverbs 30:7-9, "Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God."